Cllr. Patrick Edwards speaks out

According to the Waltham Forest Guardian, Labour Cllr. Patrick Edwards, of Cann Hall ward, has now publicly broken ranks with his party’s leadership, and come out strongly in favour of the tenants in Fred Wigg and John Walsh Towers being balloted about the Council’s plans for the redevelopment of their homes.

He is quoted as saying: ‘”I support redeveloping Fred Wigg and John Walsh but it’s important that the people who are going to live there back it too. We’ve moved a long way from the era where people were told what was good for them to one where they can actively voice their future.That voice should come through a properly conducted independent residents ballot”‘.

(see http://www.guardian-series.co.uk/news/wfnews/13337540.Calls_for_independent_ballot_on_regeneration_of_tower_blocks_rejected/)

As several onlookers have already observed on social media, it is great to see a Labour councillor speaking so clearly and with such good sense, and for this Cllr. Edwards deserves our thanks. What a contrast with another Cann Hall councillor, Keith Rayner, who, whichever political party he is currently involved with, has gained an unenviable reputation in the area and beyond for staying silent about anything that might be remotely controversial.

We can only hope that Cllr. Edwards continues in this vain, and does not go the way of the late Cllr. Nicholas Russell, who alone amongst his peers publicly expressed qualms about the closure of Harrow Green library, felt the wrath of the whips office, and ended up consigned to what many felt was the Town Hall equivalent of Siberia.

Meanwhile, the several conspiring factions in the Waltham Forest Labour Party have already begun speculating about what Cllr. Edwards’ insubordination means in terms of the ongoing internecine struggle.

Everyone agrees that the Leader, Cllr. Chris Robbins, is fast losing his grip, but most remain unsure and indeed anxious about the tricky issue of who will be his successor. Rumours abound about the machinations of the ‘Asian Block’. Cllr. Loakes lurks in the background, though there are fears that his past record may come back to bite him. Meanwhile, the standing of the one time Golden Boy, Cllr. Mark Rusling, seems to be on the wain, perhaps reflecting the parallel demise of his rather-too-obvious role model, Ed Balls.

That (by and large) leaves Cllr. Clare Coghill. Now it’s obvious that Cllr. Coghill has a lot of admirers, who tout her as the acceptable face of Labour, the antithesis of the silly macho posturing of some of her colleagues. It is even said that she is Cllr. Robbins’ favourite.

Time will tell. But by chance I was at a meeting addressed by Councillor Coghill this week, and if her performance on that occasion is anything to go by, the future doesn’t bode well. She spent a lot of time trying to convince us she knew our area, you know, really, really well, and indeed on occasion bicycled through and around it, carefully name checking the Red Lion, the North Star, and Panda (in this case, the restaurant, not the animal) to underline her, you know, cool credentials. She flattered us for our wisdom, in the way that politicians are trained to do. But when it came to substance, she was alarmingly vague. Yes, the Council wanted to spend £500,000 doing up our local shops. And yes, she was really, really interested in our opinions, and was going to sit and listen to us. But yes, she was also going to talk to a lot of other people too – for starters, our local councillors (because, of course, they knew what was best for the area), ‘her officers’, and un-named other stakeholders. It all sounded dreadfully nice, and so, well, concerned. But if you scraped off the rather obvious soft soap, the rehearsed references to Panda, and so on, little was left. Was there going to be a meaningful public consultation, where residents as a whole could express their opinions? We left the meeting none the wiser.

Which makes us, for now at least, all the more grateful for Cllr. Edwards and his plain speaking.

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